In Basford, on the ring road by what was the Futurist cinema, the Mesopotamia story started when Rachel Miller visited refugee camps, and saw for herself some of the horrors experienced by adults and children who’d fled their troubled countries seeking nothing more than safety and the prospect of a future. Now, some of those refuges are among the volunteers who give their time to the charity.
Over the last year in particular, we’ve noticed more and more people on our doorstep experiencing hardship because of the impact of austerity. For parents working zero-hour contracts, an unreliable income can cause anxiety for children. Sometimes it’s as simple as passing on a pair of trainers when they’re needed – but there are ongoing problems, like getting breakfast outside of term time when school provides free ones.
That problem, and the wider issues of poverty in Basford, is why the coffee shop gives 20 or more children a free breakfast there. Adults are welcome too, and can pay what they feel (including nothing) for meals including baked potatoes and paninis throughout the day. A lot of the food we get we’re not paying full price for, but the weekly fee for the service providing that food is around £150. We donate some of it to other organizations, working with homeless and vulnerable people.
Increasingly, people sleeping on the streets – or locally in Vernon Park – have been coming to Mesopotamia knowing we will provide them with food, dry clothes, and somewhere they can just sit and be treated like anyone else. In time we hope to get a washer and dryer so they can clean their clothes properly, and chill out with computer access to keep them connected with the people in their lives.
A lot of other people come through our doors too. Parents whose children have special needs and need to get out of the house. Pensioners grateful for somewhere their lifetime of experience is appreciated. People experiencing anxiety and isolation who just need to see a human face and be reminded that things get better. And if they can do that, maybe buy a cheap book, and have a cuppa and a cake – that’s what we’re here for.